DIXFIELD – The Board of Selectmen voted 4-1 Monday evening to task town attorney Jennifer Kreckel with interpreting the opinions of a Belfast lawyer and the Maine Municipal Association on a citizen’s petition for the town’s Wind Energy Facility Ordinance.
Patriot Renewables LLC of Quincy, Mass., approached town officials five years ago about constructing wind turbines on Col. Holman Mountain ridge.
The town’s original ordinance passed in November 2012 and a revised ordinance was rejected in November 2014. At a February meeting, selectmen voted to put the Planning Board’s original draft on the June 9 ballot. Residents defeated it.
In August, selectmen voted to approve a petition filed by residents to adopt the sound limit standards of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, including a sound limit of 42 decibels at night and 55 decibels during the day.
Tom Carroll, project coordinator for Patriot Renewables, said during a Planning Board workshop Sept. 3 that he would be uncomfortable with decibel levels that were not at the state standard of 42 decibels during the evening and 55 decibels during the day.
At Monday’s board meeting, Town Manager Carlo Puiia said that he sent the town’s ordinance to lawyer Kristin Collins, who amended it to include the DEP’s sound limit standards.
Puiia said the plan is for the the next amended draft of the ordinance to be prepared in time for the June 2016 referendum ballot.
Puiia added that Collins provided her interpretation of the petition after some board members questioned whether they could include recommendations from the Planning Board on the warrant alongside the recommendations that the petition requested.
Collins said that, in her opinion, “The town is not bound by the petition to submit a ballot question to approve an ordinance with their proposed changes.
“The petition can be taken as ‘advisory only,’ since it does not propose a ballot question, and does not specify with enough clarity the amendment that is being proposed,” Collins said. “However, I believe that the selectmen acted appropriately in trying to accomplish what has been suggested.
“It’s reasonable for a town venturing into the world of wind development to, as much as possible, match with the standards and procedures used by the state,” Collins added.
Chairman Hart Daley said that it was his “understanding that it’s not binding for us to put the exact language” of the petition on the ordinance.
“She said that the petition can be taken as ‘advisory only,” Daley said. “I’ve said it before: I feel the petition process was designed to circumvent what we had requested the Planning Board to accomplish. With her opinion, does that mean the Planning Board can continue to research their own options?”
Puiia said that the town previously asked the Maine Municipal Association the same question and were given a different opinion.
“Maybe we can send Kristin Collins a follow-up question, asking if we could put two different recommendations on the warrant at the June vote next year,” Daley said. “If that’s her opinion, then it’s pretty clear that our hands weren’t completely tied, and that we can continue to listen to the Planning Board.”
Later in the meeting, the board decided that they would send the opinions of Collins and the MMA on whether the ballot containing the petition’s amendments could contain additional recommendations to town attorney Jennifer Kreckel.
“I wouldn’t have a problem with that,” Daley said. “She should be able to interpret the opinions and let us know what she thinks is the right way to go.”
Selectman Eugene Skibitsky said he would not be able to support asking Kreckel to interpret the opinions.
“I don’t see what we gain by dragging a third party into this,” Skibitsky said. “I feel that the intent of the petitioners was clear. In my mind, it won’t help us to ask the town lawyer.”
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